After over a year of battling cancer, going back to school must have seemed like a wonderfully normal thing to do for 8-year-old Bridget Kelley. She had missed 15 months of schools as her cancer treatments and stem cell transplant took place.
Though looking forward to seeing familiar faces back at school, Bridget had no idea just how many people would come out to celebrate her triumphant return. As Bridget walked to school, 150 people, as well as the police, came out to cheer and wave signs supporting the excited 3rd grader.
As she walked through single-digit degree cold, Bridget read signs such as “Bridget the Brave,” “We Missed You,” and “Welcome Back Bridget.”
It turns out that a friend of the family, Kristin Healy, started a group to organize the warm welcome. “I invited 50 people, and by the end of the day it was 150 along with the police,” said Kristin. “Everyone was just super excited for Bridget after she had a really tough battle.” Healy couldn’t have been happier for the little girl. “It’s not a regular old day. There’s a chance Bridget could have lost her battle, and she didn’t.”
The journey to that day was a long road for Bridget. She went to get a routine tonsillectomy, but doctors found something more concerning–a rare form of leukemia. From there began a year-long series of hospital stays, surgeries, chemotherapy and stem cells transplanted from her sister. It was difficult and Bridget often found herself lonely, as she had a compromised immune system and couldn’t do much more than stay confined in her bedroom.
Her mom, Megan Kelley, explained the situation. “We couldn’t have anybody in the house,” she said to TODAY. “She understood that the cancer was serious, but it was almost more devastating that she wasn’t able to go to school or soccer or dance or birthday parties.”
Bridget’s family was worried she would be embarrassed by all the attention of going back to school, but the opposite was true. “When we saw all the people we thought she could be overwhelmed and embarrassed. But she raised her arms like ‘Victory!’ and she soaked it in. She totally went with it, and that made it that much more exciting.”